Continuing with our series of essay topic analyses for this season’s applications, we’ll take some time to think about the 2011-2012 Chicago Booth application essay questions. The overall format of the program’s prompt is similar to the last several years; the school requires that applicants submit responses to three “essays,” one of which is – in its fifth year running – a four-slide presentation. As for noteworthy changes, the adcom has again discarded the second essay in the set, in which applicants were asked to discuss a risk they have taken and the lessons they learned, replacing it with a reflection on the origin of one’s leadership style.
Let’s take a closer look at each of this year’s essays:
Essay 1: What are your short- and long-term goals, and how will a Chicago Booth MBA help you reach them? (600 words)
Essay 1 a) Re-applicants only: Upon reflection, how has your thinking regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words)
Chicago has tweaked its lead-off essay again this season, now allotting 600 words for a discussion of the applicant’s post-MBA objectives and interest in the Booth MBA program. The result remains a fairly standard career goals essay asking candidate to outline their immediate and longer-range plans after graduating from business school, and to explain how the two years they would spend at Booth would facilitate their movement toward those objectives. The 600 word limit should allow applicants to provide a fairly detailed discussion of their plans, ideally achieving a balance between the goals and why-MBA portions of their responses.
In order to respond to this essay effectively, applicants will need to be able to identify certain programs and courses that are relevant to their goals and stated interests. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Chicago Booth – will pay dividends here.
Essay 2: At Chicago Booth, we believe each individual has his or her own leadership style. How has your family, culture, and/or environment influenced you as a leader? (750 words)
A new essay for this admissions season, this prompt asks applicants to think reflectively about their leadership styles, and to trace the factors that have influenced their leadership development over time. One challenge that this essay presents is the need for candidates to write about these influences in a way that still makes them sound active, for example, framing their comments in terms of deriving lessons through observation or choosing to embrace certain attitudes, as opposed to being passively shaped by parents or environmental forces. While a somewhat abstract discussion of one’s leadership style and the factors that have informed it would technically address the prompt, the most effective responses to this question will likely include some kind of illustrative example covering either a formative experience in the applicant’s leadership development or a recent example that shows his or her unique leadership style in action. Because this essay is just one of two traditional, text-based responses, applicants would likely do well to use it to highlight some kind of leadership success (whether in the workplace or community) in the course of this discussion.
Essay 3: Considering what you’ve already included in the application, what else should we know about you? In a maximum of four slides, tell us about yourself.
Guidelines (for a full list of Essay 3 Guidelines, see this post):
The content is completely up to you. There is no right, or even preferred, approach to this presentation.
There is a strict maximum of four pages, though you can provide fewer if you choose.
This is the fifth consecutive year that this unique task has appeared as part of Chicago Booth’s application. While certainly unusual, this approach isn’t exactly revolutionary – Stern’s usual Essay 3 asks for a personal expression that gives candidates complete freedom with content and medium (with the exception of edible/perishable personal expressions) – but it does speak to Chicago Booth’s interest in a candidate’s interests and personality.
All of this “white space” might be daunting to some, but an easy way to approach this process is to ask oneself a few simple questions. What new and important information about yourself can you introduce to the adcom through this slide presentation? In terms of organization, are there four separate topics to which you would like to devote a slide each? Or would you prefer to use the four frames to create a sense of progression through a current activity, past experience, “day in the life,” etc.? We’re hesitant to provide too much guidance given the free-form nature of the task; the best advice we can offer is to think about who you are (and how this might be of interest to the Booth adcom), consider how you could translate this into words and images, and then give it a try. Showing the initial result to someone who knows you well could be a great way to determine the effectiveness of a working draft.
We understand that this question can seem extremely challenging, so feel free to contact us for a free consultation, in which a Clear Admit Admissions Counselor can help you think through the elements of your profile and determine how to best respond to this prompt.